UPDATE: It was only a few weeks ago when when we saw the latest in the Brothers In Arms series--Hell's Highway--but developer Gearbox Software seems to have already made some gameplay additions to the action strategy title.
The level being demonstrated by publisher Ubisoft at E3 07 is the same as the one we covered in our extensive May preview--a sample mission in Zon, Holland, where your small team of troopers have to clear German soldiers out of a picturesque town. But while the level was the same, Gearbox head Randy Pitchford did showcase a brand-new feature--a risk indicator that visually shows a player how great the chances are of being hit by enemy fire.
Pitchford demonstrated the risk indicator in a firefight with some German infantry hiding in a vegetable garden. While ducking behind a low, stone hedge, Pitchford's character could see the Germans hiding behind another hedge several meters away. Pitchford then made his character stand, exposing him to enemy fire. The screen then slowly started to blur, before eventually turning a deep shade of red, indicating a hit from a German bullet wasn't far away.
But while most of the screen was red, the hedge area Pitchford's character was standing behind stayed crystal clear--Pitchford said this was yet another visual indicator built into Hell's Highway for players to more easily identify where safe areas were in an open firefight.
The Zon mission was the only playable demo, but Pitchford did give us a sneak peek into some of the game's later levels to demonstrate the varied environments gamers will encounter in Hell's Highway. Pitchford said players will find themselves fighting in towns, cities, large open fields, and on Hell's Highway itself during the course of the game, but within that there would be new types of locations never seen before in a Brothers in Arms game which will give Hell's Highway its own visual signature.
One new level shown was an exact recreation of the Dutch city of Eindhoven as it was immediately after the German Luftwaffe bombed it in 1944 in retaliation to the Allies' retaking of the city. This level takes place at night, and featured the shattered husks of buildings, many of them still on fire from the recent bombing. German soldiers were roaming in the ruins, taking cover behind destroyed walls and on different storeys of abandoned buildings. The entire scene looked appropriately apocalyptic--everywhere you looked, houses were half demolished, debris was piled, and entire walls were collapsed, exposing the interior of buildings. Pitchford said the team at Gearbox based the Eindhoven in the game on the actual layout of the city as it was in 1944, using old maps and images from British spy planes taken before and after the bombing.
As well as outdoor areas, Hell's Highway will also feature several indoor levels, which will take up roughly 10 to 15 percent of the game's locations. Another level shown to us by Pitchford was inside an abandoned hospital at night--the interiors were dark for the most past, with the few lit areas done in eerie tones of greens and blues. Debris was strewn everywhere, with hospital trolleys and cabinets used as make-shift barriers in some hallways. The detail Gearbox has put into this environment was quite impressive--the paint on the walls were cracked and peeling, and the carpet and tiles on the floor were in a disheveled state. Again, Gearbox used the actual plans and layout of the real hospital for their game recreation, as Pitchford happily proved by showing us actual photographs of the location as it was in the late 1930s.
Brothers in Arms Hell's Highway is set for release on the Xbox 360, PC and PS3 before the end of 2007. Click here for our full preview.